Dr. Sne running a test of the LaparoGuard technology in the operating room

New equipment aims to make surgery safer

Advancements in technology have greatly aided in making many procedures and surgeries safer for patients. This includes laparoscopic surgery, which has become a common approach over the past 40 years for a variety of surgical procedures.

In laparoscopic surgery, a long, slim tool is inserted through small cuts into the abdomen. The tool is equipped with a very small camera and light on the end. Additional instruments are inserted through a similar technique. Images from the camera are fed to a screen, and the surgeon carries out the procedure by watching their movements on the screen. It’s used for many procedures including gall bladder removal, hernia surgery and colon resection.

Dr. Sne testing the LaparoGuard system

There’s still room for improvement

As a minimally invasive surgery, the incisions are much smaller. This reduces the patient’s risk of infection and significantly reduces the hospital length of stay, overall leading to a faster recovery.

Despite the benefits laparoscopic surgery offers, there is still room for improvement. Since surgeons are working within a much smaller space, it can sometimes be tricky to keep their multiple tools within a clearly defined safe zone. This can result in unintentional minor injury to surrounding tissues. The injury is often recognized and treated when it occurs, but if it goes unnoticed it can eventually cause complications.

Finding solutions with technology

To tackle this problem a local medical device company, Mariner Endosurgery, has developed a new device called LaparoGuard. It allows surgeons to identify and create a safe zone that the surgeon must stay within during laparoscopic procedures. If the instruments unintentionally move out of the safe zone, Laparoguard sends an audio and visual signal to the operating team.

After rigorous testing and approvals, the equipment is ready to pilot in a research trial at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).

LaparoGuard uses innovative image-enhancing technology, similar to what’s used in a fighter jet.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of the safety and precision of minimally-invasive surgery in recent years,” says Dr. Niv Sne, trauma surgeon at HHS and principal investigator for the LaparoGuard trial. “Still, no surgery is without its risks. This trial may present surgical teams with a more advanced option to conduct laparoscopic procedures with even fewer risks to the patient.”

LaparoGuard uses innovative image-enhancing technology, similar to what’s used in a fighter jet. It’s described by the makers as augmented reality without a headset. LaparoGuard is installed in one operating room at Hamilton General Hospital for the pilot, which begins in the next few weeks.

LaparoGuard tools being used in a test at the Hamilton General Hospital

“We’re excited to be working alongside Dr. Sne and the surgical teams at Hamilton Health Sciences,” says Mitch Wilson, president & chief operating officer of Mariner. “Their extensive experience conducting laparoscopic procedures and their interest in exploring new technology to improve patient safety and surgical precision is invaluable.”

A collaborative team

This collaboration between HHS and Mariner Endosurgery is one of the projects funded by Health Ecosphere, an innovation pipeline program that assists in commercializing health solutions. This, along with a grant from Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, helped make this trial possible.

“Now we’ll use feedback from HHS surgeons to ensure it’s efficient for the team that’s using it.”

The surgeons at HHS’ Hamilton General Hospital are excited to explore the new technology.

“At this point we’re confident LaparoGuard can help make laparoscopic surgery safer for patients. Now we’ll use feedback from HHS surgeons to ensure it’s efficient for the team that’s using it,” says Mitch. “We’re looking forward to the results.”

Wesley and his grandfather in the pool

RJCHC helps kids Get Wet ‘N Fit in the pool

Swimming is one of 7-year-old Wesley David’s favourite things to do.

Since he was five, he has been participating in triathlons: swimming with his life jacket, cycling on an adapted bicycle, and using his walker for the running portion of the race.

Wesley was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 13 months old. He later had a stroke related to his treatment and has had ongoing physiotherapy ever since.

His physiotherapist at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC) heard about his hobby and suggested he get involved with a new program called Get Wet ‘n Fit.

Wesley and his grandfather in the pool

Get Wet ‘n Fit is a community-based pool program for clients of RJCHC with diagnoses including but not limited to muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. The six-week program was held in partnership with the City of Hamilton at Westmount Recreation Centre.

The program was initiated by physiotherapists KC Chavez and Janet Mannen and occupational therapist Brooke Wardrope in the Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitation (DPR) program at RJCHC and supported by volunteers. Volunteers allow more children to access these programs by providing one to one support in the water.

“Overall, there is a mutual benefit as volunteering not only enriches our services, but provides meaningful experiences for those who give back,” said Brooke.

Morgan Lewandowski was one of the volunteers who expressed gratitude for being able to participate in the program. She said, “It made me happy to see all of the children having so much fun as well as getting so much exercise. This was one of the most impactful experiences I have had so far and I am beyond lucky to have been a part of it.”

Card that Morgan gave to the program organizer
Volunteers like Morgan enriched the program and were provided with a meaningful experience.

During the program, children worked through their treatment plans as well as group exercises like stretching, range of motion exercises, and some cardiovascular conditioning.

“Each child had individualized goals to progress through which were developed based on their functional levels. A balance challenge was conducted in the first and last sessions to assess stability and strength against challenging variable currents,” said Brooke.

“Group activities provided an opportunity for children to interact with each other and develop peer relationships.”

Wesley’s grandpa Lark can attest to the benefits of the program. He was often in the water with his grandson, while grandma came to watch.

Wesley in the pool with his grandfather

“The program got the kids excited and that excitement promotes exercise. That exercise is the therapy they are looking for,” said grandpa.

Since starting the program, Wesley’s balance has improved as well as movement in his legs. Plus, he gets more physical exercise with the assistance of the water.

Wesley’s grandma Connie said it was wonderful to watch Wesley in the pool because he was able to walk, run, splash, and play without the use of his wheelchair or walker.

“It looked like there were no limitations. He was like any other 7-year-old.”

Although the program has completed until the next session dates are released, grandma and grandpa still take Wesley to Westmount Recreation Centre’s “family swim” to make use of the location’s accessible features.

Wesley gets to spend quality time with his grandparents while getting the added benefit of physiotherapy – all the while enjoying one of his favourite activities. It’s a win-win.